Pollination networks and functional specialization: A test using Lesser Antillean plant-hummingbird assemblages

  • Dalsgaard B
  • Martín González A
  • Olesen J
 et al. 
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Network analysis has in recent years improved our understanding of pollination systems. However, there is very little information about how functionally specialized plants and pollinators interact directly and indirectly in pollination networks. We have developed a parameter, Functional specialization index, to quantify functional specialization in pollination networks. Using this parameter, we examined whether different sized hummingbirds visit a distinct set of flowers in five hummingbird-pollinated plant assemblages from the Lesser Antilles, obtaining a simple relationship between hummingbird body size, network parameter and ecological function. In the Lesser Antilles, functionally specialized hummingbird pollination is distinct for plant species pollinated by the largest hummingbird species, whereas the pollination niche gradually integrates with the insect pollinator community as hummingbird body size decreases. The network approach applied in this study can be used to validate functional specialization and community-level interdependence between plants and pollinators, and it is therefore useful for evaluating and predicting plant resilience to pollinator loss, presently a global concern

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